Fittingly released on Friday, February 13, 1970, Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut album intertwines dark, haunting lyrics with heavy propelling music charged with seriousness and fear in a new genre: heavy metal.
They Got Their Official Name From An Italian Film
Even the narrative of how the group’s sound came together feels steeped in folklore: Four young musicians from the desolate, dead-end industrial city of Birmingham, England, banded together as Earth before adopting a new name derived from the anthology film from Italian horror director Mario Bava Black Sabbath.
The First Prosthetics Fingers Iommi Used Was a Melted Plastic Detergent Bottle
According to the UCR portal, the sinister nickname coincided with an innovative sound forged out of necessity. Guitarist Tony Iommi had severed the tips of two of his fingers in a factory accident and, after fashioning a set of prosthetics out of a melted plastic detergent bottle, relearned to play the guitar on heavy-gauge banjo strings. light tuning.
Geezer Butler Didn’t Know How To Play Bass
The resulting throaty sound was fattened up because bassist Geezer Butler had previously been a guitarist. Instead of playing rhythmic or melodic runs, he doubled down on Iommi’s thunderous riffs.
Ozzy Was The Inspiration For Their Dark Theme
Banshee’s wails by singer Ozzy Osbourne imbued the fear lyrics, mainly composed by Butler, with conviction without catharsis. The stories of doom and madness on Sabbath offered no release from the tension. Complementing Osbourne’s take on such dark and unconventional storytelling, the band eschewed traditional song structures, instead creating each track a chain reaction series of Iommi’s powerful melodic riffs. And all of this experimentation and innovation was quickly eliminated by Sabbath in a London studio in November 1969.
The result was housed in a sleeve that resembles an evil talisman. A ghostly lady with a Mona Lisa smile gazes indifferently from a contemporary Hammer horror movie landscape. Except for the smile, the figure resembles Miss Jessup, the weeping ghost who possesses a young girl in the 1961 British film The Innocents, an adaptation of Henry James’s ghostly The Turn of the Screw.
It Was An Experiment – Recorded in 12 Hours
Make no mistake, Black Sabbath is the birth of metal, but it’s also a record of the band’s distinctive take on the music that spawned the genre they created. Their debut album is a record of the dark alchemy that Iommi, Osbourne, Butler and Ward went through to forge something new. It is a snapshot of a revolution and recording session in just 12 hours with producer Rodger Bain at Regent Sound Studio.
Black Sabbath Title Track
The boys from Birmingham open with their moodiest tune, a composition so powerful it threatens to overshadow the rest of their debut. Sound effects of howling wind, torrential rain, and the church bell continue for half a minute before Iommi and Butler unleash a slow, deliberate riff with a coda that spirals like a scorpion’s tail.
The guitarist and bassist had been listening to “Mars, the Bringer of War” from Gustav Holst’s The Planets suite, and decided to double down on what they heard for the title track.
The Devil’s Notes
Sabbath’s descending riff is derived from a three-note combination that goes by many names: the tritone, the devil’s interval, and the diabolo in music (devil in music). Although the devil’s interval was never banned by the medieval Catholic Church, as many have claimed, it gets “Black Sabbath” off to an ominous start. Unlike most of the album, the lyrics are Osbourne’s, his interpretation of Butler’s haunting post-dream, vision of a baleful figure looking down at the bassist from the foot of his bed.
They Weren’t Satanist, But Story Tellers
Osbourne sings about Satan, but it’s not a celebration sprinkled with manic laughter. Instead, the singer takes on the role of a poor bastard caught in the web of evil. Black Sabbath was later grouped with gangs like Coven and Black Widow who staged black masses, complete with altars made up of nude women. But as “Black Sabbath” illustrates, Osbourne is telling a deeply moral horror story, a warning not to mess with the devil.